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A good distiller needs to have good senses of smell and taste, says Frank Deiter.

Photo for: A good distiller needs to have good senses of smell and taste, says Frank Deiter.

06/03/2023 Meet Frank Deiter: Man who kick-started modern craft distilling in British Columbia, Canada.

Frank founded Okanagan Spirits Distilling in 2004 and quickly gained international recognition as a master distiller. He has resigned as President and Master Distiller of Okanagan Spirits Distilling in 2011. Since that time, he continues to pursue other interests in the craft distilling industry as an independent consultant and instructor in the art of Craft Distilling. He has always stayed closely connected to the trade he loves. Frank has mentored several successful start-ups. 

Since 2004. Frank Deiter has worked together with Mueller Pot Stills, one of the leading pot still manufacturers in Germany, and now represents Mueller in the North American market, selling and handling their products in this growing craft distilling market.

Here we chat with Frank about life as a distiller and how distillers can help in sales.

Tell us a little about your background and journey into distilling

Back in 2002 I was between jobs and during a walk through apple orchards I was surprised at how many apples were laying on the ground just after the harvest. I wondered why nobody is using them to make apple brandy. I got more and more interested in how the fruit system was working here in BC and decided to open a distillery. It happened to be the first Craft Distillery in all of Western Canada. 

Prior to opening the distillery, I went for close to a year to Germany, Switzerland, and Italy to learn the craft. I was extremely fortunate to have had two extremely good distillers as my masters. One of them is or was Vittorio Capovilla from Italy. Besides his distillery in Italy, he operates also a Rum distillery in Haiti. Anyway, due to the rock-solid training, I received I became quite successful and received 2005 and 2010 32 gold medals in a very professionally run Spirit Competition in Austria. After running the distillery for 8 years I had to make a decision as to whether I continue as a distiller or move on to selling Distilling equipment, which I started at the same time I opened the distillery.

I needed to have more than one distillery in British Columbia in order to convince the Government to modify its Liquor laws and come up with a specific Craft Distilling Licence. I was president of the Artisan Distillers Guild ( todays Craft Distilling Association) and worked together with Rick Pipes from Merrydale cider with the Government on the creation of a Craft Distilling License, which was introduced in 2012 or 2013 and allowed the distilleries to become more profitable.

Your current role and what does your day look like?

from 2011 I concentrated on the sales of distilling equipment and consultant to this young industry. I teach distilling and have helped many young distilling enthusiasts to get into the distilling business without them losing their heads/money.

Mueller Craft Distilling

What inspired you to become a distiller?

I already said this in the background section but there is one more aspect that really convinced me to be part of the industry. The industry as such is guided by a very positive vibe. As you are producing something that is joyful. Your customers are buying something that fills them with true happiness. He drops a couple of 100 bucks and keeps smiling. Just picture a tire salesman at 8 am telling a customer he needs four new tires. That has way less potential to radiate happiness.

What are some of the most important skills for a distiller?

First and foremost is patience. Due to the fact that the majority of new distilleries are hopelessly underfunded, there is a trend to force products onto the market that should mature for a longer period of time. A distiller should have a good base education about fermentation and handling of the fermented materials. Raw material and fermentation form the base of good products. Yes, the distilling equipment is important as well but not as important as fermentation.

How do you think a distiller can help in driving marketing and sales personally?

That is very difficult to respond to as it depends heavily on the personality of the distiller. The distiller him/herself needs to know their strengths and if sales and marketing are not their strengths then another person has to take over that role.


Define a good distiller

A good distiller needs to have good senses of smell and taste. He definitely needs to understand the impact of temperature not only on his distilling equipment but also on fermentation temperatures.

What is the hardest part of a distiller's job?

To stay patient. To know the difference between fun and the need to make money to finance the fun.

What's your elevator pitch to a bartender when pitching your brand

Our spirits are not made for " active result drinking" but for a higher level of culinary enjoyment.

What are the current challenges the spirits industry is facing according to you?

Not the spirit industry as such but I am a bit concerned about the craft distilling industry. Craft distilling carries the aura of high-quality products. Better products than those coming from big industrial distilleries. However, because a lot of these young distilleries are underfunded there is pressure to get products to the market and those products are often inferior in quality. thus, exactly contrary to why this industry was founded. We wanted to get away from these industrial products that the industry was shoving down our throats. I just want to point out one sentence from the terminology section of the Canadian Distiller's Association regarding rye. Rye is a truly Canadian product and everybody that goes to a bar and orders Canadian whiskey will ask for RYE. Yet the Canadian Distiller's Association says Rye, a name still used for Canadian Whiskey although Corn is the predominant grain. These are expressions that convinced me that there is a market out there for top-quality products. Including real rye whiskey of course.

Muller Craft Distilling

What skill or topic you are learning currently and why?

No so much skill as more around equipment improvement.

What is your idea of a good life?

I am now 73 years old and helping new or young distillers make me really feel good and worthy. I still find time to relax, read books (mainly economics), and play golf. A fulfilling simple life.

Which is your go-to drink and what is the perfect setting you enjoy it in?

Manhattan straight up with good bitters and Bad Bing cherries from Washington State enjoyed in the summer when I can sit on my patio and look across the valley

Your favourite 2-3 distilling or spirits books?

I indeed have only one book that was important to me. A book written in German: Technologie der Obstbrennerei: (Pieper/Bruchmann/Kolb)

Bartender Spirits Awards medal will help you in raising your bar in the on-trade channels. View complete winning benefits here. The international submission deadline is March 24, 2023.